10/07/2010 3:23PM

Ralph Kercheval, horseman and farm manager, dead at 98


LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky horseman and former farm manager Ralph Kercheval died Oct. 6 in Lexington. He was 98.

Kercheval managed Alfred G. Vanderbilt’s Sagamore Farm in Glyndon, Md., and oversaw that operation and its matings when classic winner and two-time Horse of the Year Native Dancer was foaled there in 1950. But he got his start in the Thoroughbred business in his native state first by working with mares and foals at C. V. Whitney’s Lexington farm and then as a trainer for Maine Chance Farm.

In 1958, Kercheval returned to Lexington as managing partner and trainer for Idle Hour Farm and as trainer and bloodstock manager for Robert Lehman. In 1969, Kercheval, his wife, Blanche, and son Hal leased Gallaher Farm and operated their own commercial breeding and training facility. Ralph Kercheval later became an executive at Mereworth Farm and was a founding director of Kirk Horse Insurance.

Kercheval’s most notable homebred was Fleet Victress, a graded stakes winner in 1976 and 1977.

Kercheval also was believed to be the oldest living former National Football League player at his death. He played for the NFL Brooklyn Dodgers from 1934-40 before enlisting in the Army before World War II. It was while playing football that Kercheval launched his Thoroughbred career by working during the off-season at Witney’s farm.

Kercheval is survived by his wife and by sons Ralph Jr., Hal, and Ron.